New Paltz, NY (March 9, 2010) – Councilman James F. Gennaro (D-Fresh Meadows) advocated on behalf of nine million New Yorkers’ water supply at SUNY New Paltz’s public forum titled, “The Future of Gas Drilling in New York State” last night. The forum was attended by close to 200 students and upstate residents.

“Drilling for natural gas is an activity that must not happen in New York City’s pristine drinking water supply upstate,” Gennaro said. “This is an industrial activity that is incompatible with the delicate watershed where 9 million New Yorkers get their drinking water. Not only is drilling likely to contaminate our water supply, but it’s also likely to force New York City taxpayers to pay for a $10 billion filtration plant. Between the environmental harm and the cost to taxpayers, New Yorkers cannot afford to let this happen.”

The event featured a panel discussion between Councilman Gennaro, chairman of the New York City Council Environmental Protection Committee; Kate Sinding, senior attorney for Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC); Scott Rotruck, vice president of government relations for Chesapeake Energy; Stuart Gruskin, executive deputy commissioner, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC); and Wes Gillingham, program director, CatskillMountainkeeper.

ScheinMedia founder and CEO Jonathan A. Schein served as moderator of the panel.

The panel discussion was followed by a town hall forum for the audience to ask questions of the speakers and a closing address by U.S. Congressman Maurice Hinchey (D-NY).

The Marcellus Shale, which spans four states, including large parts of New York, is one of the largest natural gas deposits in the country. With energy and economic security issues facing the country, the future of gas drilling in New York is one of the most important economic and environmental issues the state has ever confronted. Faced with an enormous state deficit, New York State Governor David Paterson is attempting to balance intense pressure from landowners and the gas industry, with several serious environmental issues and concerns raised by anti-drilling groups and New York City, which seeks to protect its water supply from potential contamination and environmental damage that may result from gas drilling. The economic benefits associated with gas industry development must be weighed against potential harm to human health and the environment.

Of major concern is hydraulic fracturing, “fracking,” the controversial drilling technology that opened shale gas deposits across the country to profitable drilling, and which is exempt from federal safe drinking water laws. It’s up to the states to develop regulations on the process and conduct oversight.

The New York City Council has been an early and vocal critic of the use of this practice in the Catskill/Delaware watershed, an area that provides a clean, unfiltered water supply to New York City and several upstate communities.

Starting in the fall of 2008, the Committee on Environmental Protection held multiple hearings on this subject. After concluding that the practice poses unacceptable risks to NYC’s water supply, The Council passed Resolution 1850-A, calling on Governor Paterson and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to ban gas drilling within the City’s watershed. The Council has continued to present concerns to the DEC in testimony at public hearings and in formal written comments, held press conferences and published opinion pieces about the risks of hydrofracking and circulated petitions encouraging concerned citizens to contact Governor Paterson and their State and Federal representatives.

For more than 20 years, Councilman Gennaro has worked together with state and city elected officials to protect the city’s extraordinary water supply. The Councilman was a crucial part of implementing a comprehensive Watershed Protection Program and taken careful measures to provide dependable drinking water, which is among the highest quality in the nation. As a result of these concerted efforts, New York is one of only five large cities in the country to be granted federal exemption from water filtration requirements. This has allowed New York to avoid constructing a $10 billion water filtration plant, which would cost $100 million to operate every year, and which would, if constructed increase City water rates by 30 percent.